Washington Approves Importing Atlantic Salmon Eggs From Iceland To Cooke Aquaculture Hatchery
Cook Aquaculture was approved to transfer 1.8 million Atlantic salmon eggs from its facility in Iceland to its land-based hatchery in Rochester, Washington.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife issued a transfer permit late Tuesday, Oct. 10, after ensuring Cooke met all the fish health standards required under state law to import Atlantic salmon eggs, according to a WDFW news release.
Last week the fisheries agency approved a permit for the aquaculture company to transfer about 1 million 2-year old smolts from the Rochester hatchery to an existing net pen facility in Rich Passage near Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound. There the smolts will grow to adults for harvest and sale. The move is expected to take place through the fall.
Cooke operates net pens at eight locations in Puget Sound, including the Cypress Island Deepwater Bay facility in the San Juan Islands where one pen collapsed on Aug. 19 and released nearly 150,000 Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound and nearby waters.
After the net pen collapse, Gov. Jay Inslee directed that no permits be issued for new aquaculture net pens while the incident was being investigated.
“However, WDFW does not have the authority under current regulations to deny Cooke’s request to import healthy Atlantic salmon eggs, which will mature at the hatchery into juvenile fish and eventually be used in net pen operations,” the fisheries agency said.
Cooke had applied in mid-September for permission to move the Atlantic salmon eggs from its hatchery in Vogar, Iceland, to the company’s Scatter Creek hatchery in Rochester. The move is expected to take place later this week.
Although understanding that WDFW’s hands are legally tied, Inslee last week had publicly opposed the transfer of the salmon smolts to the company’s Rich Passage facility, saying that he hoped the company would do the right thing.
“My office has asked Cooke to do the right thing – for our tribes, for our citizens, for our environment and for the industry’s long-term prospects – and withdraw their request,” Inslee said.
WDFW issued the fish transport permit for the 2-year old smolts late Monday, Oct. 2, after working to ensure the company’s facilities at Rich Passage met structural, water quality, and fish health requirements. Staff from WDFW and the departments of Natural Resources and Ecology visited the net-pen site in late September. Ecology staff inspected the facility and did not find violations of the current water quality permit. Divers hired by DNR examined the net pens and support structures below the surface at Clam Bay along Rich Passage. The inspection did not yield grounds to deny the permit, the state said.
However, this week DNR issued a default notice to Cooke for that facility. The agency issued the letter Monday, Oct. 9 and gave the company 60 days to fix flaws it found in the facility’s salmon net pens.
Cooke’s lease with DNR requires the company maintain the property in good order and repair, according to a DNR news release. An inspection contracted by DNR found that some of the surface structures of the Rich Passage net pens fail to meet that standard. Specifically, inspectors found a hole in netting and severe corrosion on several components of the facility’s above-water infrastructure.
“Given the failure of the Cypress Island facility, we have to be extra vigilant in making sure Cooke’s other existing aquaculture facilities are structurally sound,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “We cannot tolerate any risk that more Atlantic salmon will be released in Washington’s waters.”
The Cypress Island incident remains under investigation, and efforts continue to recover the fish that escaped, which is estimated to be about half of the 305,000 fish held in the net pen.
On August 24, the Wild Fish Conservancy sent a 60-day notice to Cooke notifying the company that it intends to file a citizen suit under section 505 of the federal Clean Water Act, saying that the near-complete failure of the net pen facility is resulting in discharges of farmed Atlantic salmon, dead fish carcasses and debris, among other pollutants.
— CBB, October 6, 2017, “Washington Gov. Asks Cooke Aquaculture To Withdraw Request To Transfer One Million Atlantic Salmon,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439675.aspx
— CBB, Sept. 22, 2017, “Escaped Atlantic Salmon Continue To Be Caught; WDFW Says Fish Not Expected To Establish Themselves” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439602.aspx
–CBB, September 8, 2017, “Over Half Of Net Pen Atlantic Salmon In San Juans Escaped; Reported Catches At Columbia Mouth,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439541.aspx
–CBB, September 1, 2017, “Fish Farm Escape: Intent To Sue Filed, Washington Sets Up Incident Command Structure To Contain,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439510.aspx